The CII NID Design Summit 2007 was kicked off in great style by Uday Dandavate, Design with India, with the screening of two song sequences from Bollywood in the sixtees and from the current crop, the first showed Nutan doing a homely Garba dance and the other with Bipasha Basu in Omkara, a stark reminder that we have all come a long way since Independence. Yes, India is changing and we expect it to change even more rapidly in the days ahead since the world has just crossed the urban rural ratio going in favoutr of the urban settlements for the first time since the dawn of civilization.In the India Report of 1958 Charles Eames had warned us about the nature of this change. He says – ”… we recommend that without delay there be a sober investigation into those values and those qualities that Indians hold important to a good life, that there be a close scrutiny of those elements that go to make up a “Standard of Living”. ……”. He goes on to say in an insightful manner that …” …One suspects that much benefit would be gained from starting this search at the small village level.”
We are now in the fag end of the year 2007, almost 50 years after the tabling of the Eames India Report, and at the CII-NID Design Summit we had a report from the CII National Committees on Design that was set up to discuss the proposed implementation of the National Design Policy that was announced by the Central Government on the 8th February 2007 and this statement was part of the conference handout. I do wish that this statement or recommendation could have been made available much earlier and to a wider audience of designers and industry and that these recommendations were debated and discussed to the extant that they should be if they are to become inclusive as well as effective. Vikram Kirloskar, Chairman of the CII National Committee on Design spoke briefly about the five broad planks that were considered by the committee and these are listed below:
1. Competitiveness of Industry by Design
2. Design for Culture, Society and Environment
3. Design for Education
4. Branding /Promotion of Design through Media
5. Design Policy implementation including setting up of Design Parks. Venture fund for design
No mention of the village that Eames had warned us about, but we are already 50 years ahead, so things must have changed on the ground, the population is streaming into our urban centres – but the big question is – is this the good life that Indians are aspiring to live? Is this so? I personally do not think so nor is this an inevitable direction, since we can design our future if only we set out to examine the possibilities, by design. At the end of the session on the National Design Policy I was able to ask a question to the Secretary, DIPP Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion who are charged with the responsibility of implementing the policy. I quote, “How are you planning to bring the other Ministries of the Government on board the National Design Policy since all of them need Design and not just Industry, particularly in the areas on Rural Development and Education to name only a few?” – unquote. During this session the member secretary of the AIDI (Association of Indian Design Industry) too offered to partner with Government in furthering the objectives of the NDP and the Secretary immediately suggested that the AIDI get in touch with the Ministry after the conference to initiate necessary action and set up a platform for such cooperation, and I do hope that the AIDI will act on this invitation and make sure that the voice of the design industry is an integral part of the ongoing dialogue on the NDP.
The other interesting sessions that I attended included the dialogue between Kishore Biyani and Bruce Nussbaum that was facilitated by Uday Dandavate. Kishore Biyani, it is evident from his submissions, is very clued in on what design can do for the retail industry that he represents and he has a clear conception of how he proposes to use design to face the huge diversity of India and the Indian consumer. He is one CEO who understands design and I do wish we could see more of his ilk following suit. Ratan Tata, on the other hand is a designer and architect, who was not present at the conference but his impact was certainly felt since there were whispers in the corridors of the great under 100,000 Rupee car (sub-one-lakh car for the masses) being talked about in awe and great respect. I however am surprised and not moved by such a shallow understanding of the transportation aspiration of the Indian citizen while Bangalore and its infrastructure is being visibly choked to the hilt by private automobiles and two-wheelers and the city and in particular, the axis road to the conference venue, is not able to take it anymore with the traffic inching along at a snail’s pace. It is here that the design policy should look at the macro level of the system and see how public transportation can be designed offered at a high quality and such irresponsible adventures as the “sub-one-lakh car”, a great feat of engineering however, are not foisted on the unsuspecting Indian villager and urbanite alike. We need to raise a debate and some of these questions are political, and these are design questions at a systems level. The Politics of Design as the Ulm School Foundation is now discussing it should inform National Policy, but is the Planning Commission listening?
Dr Koshy, Director NID, said all the right things and Bruce Nussbaum was duly impressed as he has stated in his blog-post at the Innovation section of the BusinessWeek Online. Shailajeet “Banny” Bannerjee called for new kind of leadership education for India using design at its core and once again Bruce Nussbaum has a detailed post on his talk at the conference besides one on his own keynote at the CII-NID Summit. In the second session two speakers held my attention. These were Ignacio Germade from Motorola who talked about design Transformation through innovation. His purpose for using design were clear and insightful as a four stage agenda as follows:
1. Discovering Opportunities – Need great processes in design thinking.
2. Facilitating Collaboration – Being good at storytelling.
3. Prototyping Propositions _ Making ideas tangible and visible to all.
4. Inside out branding – Not as icing on the cake since people want the cake and not just the icing.
Very stimulating indeed. The other significant talk of the morning was by Kingshuk Das from IDEO, Paolo Alto who talked about design connecting to the traditional wisdom of India and thereby creating great value, refreshing ideas that are both realistic as well as exotic. GK van Patter was of course stimulating but you can get his talk and the details of his philosophy from his website at the NextD site here. The NextD journal and the methods that he proposed are all available for review at their website link. There were some very boring presentations or should I say sales pitches by companies, which should not have been allowed by the organizers, and we must see that this is not repeated next year even if the companies concerned make a contribution or sponsorship to the conference.
Besides these the presentation by Uday Salunke, Director of Welingkar Institute of Management was very encouraging since now management schools too are looking seriously at Design and they with IDIOM are designing the next generation school called WE-School which we had a glimpse in Sonia Manchanda’s presentation. Of the case studies one stood out for its brilliance and excellence of execution and this was Lemon Design’s presentation by Dipendra Baoni of a new honey packaging and branding strategy that had created quite a stir at the conference. There were several break-out sessions but I did not attend these but I am sure that some of the other participants will share their experiences in the days ahead. In the final analysis it was a good conference, quite unreachable due to the remote location and horrible traffic at Bangalore, but a great meeting place for designer friends but with a huge gap due to very low presence of Industry CEO’s, which should be our objective for the next time around if design is to find a place in the Indian landscape alongside management, finance, science and technology.
I moderated a very interesting session (for me) along with Maoli Marur, Editor of Kyoorius Design Magazine where we had five Indian students and one international student who was working in India to give their insights about the future of design. I will leave it to others to comment on this session and I am sure that this should be a regular feature at the future summits and we must thank Uday Dandavate for insisting on having this event and makiong sure that it was not forgotten in the husstle and bustle of talking to Industry and Government.